Dr. Eleanor Fleming Descendant of Ruffin and Egbert Bright Biography
Dr. Eleanor Fleming was born and raised in Williamson County where she was surrounded by the history and memorabilia of the Civil War. Although Fleming never considered Nashville home, she always considered it a home away from home because most of her educational training took place in Nashville at Vanderbilt and Meharry Medical College. Fleming’s grandmother was the genealogist of the family, and she told many stories about the family when Fleming was growing up. Fleming’s grandmother moved from Lewisburg to Nashville when she was a teenager because her father had a job working with horses for the Belle Meade family. With the guidance and storytelling of Fleming’s grandmother, the family was able to trace their ancestry back to the first census records where negroes were counted in 1870.
“our family history was important, something to be kept, and remembered and passed on. And from there it just kind of grew and always made me wonder more about my family”
In 2017, the Fort Negley Visitors Center tweeted the names of the impressed black laborers that built and defended Fort Negley and other fortifications in Nashville from the Employment Rolls and Nonpayment Rolls of Negroes Employed in the Defenses of Nashville, Tennessee. It was through these tweets that Fleming discovered that her paternal ancestors, Ruffin and Egbert Bright, had a connection to Fort Negley.
“And from there, it became this adventure of kind of rediscovering myself, by discovering Ruffin and Egbert.”
On July 22nd, 1865 Ruffin, age 39, and Egbert Bright, age 15, were both paid 35 dollars for their work at Fort Negley. Ruffin later married Jane Scruggs and had nine children. In the 1870 census, Ruffin is listed as a farm laborer while Egbert is listed as being at home. In the 1880 census, both Ruffin and Egbert are both listed as farm laborers somewhere in the Sunnyside area of Hillsborough Road.
“Ruffin and Ebert were able to build lives, build families, pass on traditions”
After a conversation with her father about her ancestors, her father shared that he was involved in constructing Greer Stadium on the very same site where her two great and three great-grandfathers helped construct Fort Negley.
Fleming believes that to truly preserve Fort Negley it must be integrated into the city. Fort Negley was able to connect Fleming’s family history. Although Fleming recognizes that not everyone has such a personal connection to the site, she hopes that people can see themselves in Fort Negley as she does.
“Nashville is Fort Negley. Fort Negley deserves that attention and again to be a part of the story whenever anyone asks about Nashville.”